March 8, 2013
News & Opinion: Women's Business
I know some believe that by focusing on what women can change themselves--pressing them to lean in--it seems like I am letting our institutions off the hook....Far from blaming the victim, I believe that female leaders are key to the solution. Some critics will also point out that it is much easier for me to lean in, since my financial resources allow me to afford any help I need. My intention is to offer advice that would have been useful to me long before I had heard of Google and Facebook and that will help women in a broad range of circumstances.Taking Sandberg's message in the spirit with which she intends, the book is as inspiring and intimate as her TED Talk. An engaging storyteller, Sandberg is willing to put her own life up as an example of both success and struggle in the effort to encourage women to continue to try to have it all. This "having it all" thing that used to be the mantra of women striving for work and family success has taken a beating lately, most notably by Anne-Marie Slaughter who wrote in The Atlantic this summer:
Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation. But when many members of the younger generation have stopped listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating “you can have it all” is simply airbrushing reality, it is time to talk. I still strongly believe that women can “have it all” (and that men can too). I believe that we can “have it all at the same time.” But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured.Slaughter got criticized (lots of people would prefer to focus on the choices women get to make now, rather than think there are any limitations to those choices) and supported (Gloria Steinem would agree that women can strive to have it all, but unless society changes, it ain't gonna happen) for that piece, just as Sandberg gets criticized for encouraging women to keep leaning in, to keep striving, and to do that by changing our own attitudes and efforts. As her subtitle makes clear, Sandberg puts a lot of emphasis on "will." Yes, coming at the problem of gender inequity individually is a lot to put on women who already shoulder a lot of responsibility in their lives, but it's a message that every individual can actually strive to incorporate and reap benefits from. Activism is important. Making change company-wide should always be a goal. But as with most everything else, change starts one
Every social movement struggles with dissension within its ranks, in part because advocates are passionate and unlikely to agree on every position and solution. [...] There are so many of us who care deeply about these matters. We should strive to resolve our differences quickly, and when we disagree, stay focused on our shared goals.*** Sheryl Sandberg's book isn't the only recent business book written by a woman for women in business that critiques and encourages. Here are a few other notable additions to your reading list:
We need to be grateful for what we have but dissatisfied with the status quo. This dissatisfaction spurs the charge for change. We must keep going. [...] The march toward true equality continues. It continues down the halls of governments, corporations, academia, hospitals, law firms, nonprofits, research labs, and every organization, large and small. We owe it to the generations that came before us and the generations that will come after to keep fighting.
About Sally Haldorson
Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.